Belfast Telegraph

Maghaberry overcrowding blamed for rise in prisoner assaults

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Overcrowding at Northern Ireland's biggest jail has been blamed for the rise in prisoner -on-prisoner assaults, the Assembly has heard.

The DUP's Brenda Hale, whose constituency takes in Maghaberry Prison, said "serious concerns" had been raised about staffing levels at the high-security facility in Co Antrim.

"I have had several meetings with staff who work in Maghaberry Prison and they have raised serious issues around the staffing there and as a result prisoner-on-prisoner assaults are up," she said.

Maghaberry houses some of Northern Ireland's most dangerous criminals including murderers, rapists and terrorists.

Inmates are held in closely guarded separated units, with tight restrictions on movement and measures to detect hidden guns or communications equipment.

Justice Minister David Ford told MLAs the reopening of a prison block had alleviated some of the overcrowding problems.

"Maghaberry is one of the most complex prisons anywhere on these islands given the number of prisoners who are there," added Mr Ford.

To help manage the jail better, Mr Ford said work was being done to reconfigure it into three 'mini-prisons' - one for those for on remand, another for sentenced prisoners and the third for those regarded as high-security risks.

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